BIKING THE OLD TRACKS

While lying in bed the other night, I tossed and turned faced with a tough choice; will tomorrow be a leg day or upper body day? Poor ole me right? I was finally able to fall asleep in the warmth and coziness of gratitude for having that choice.

Waking up the next morning I stared at the ceiling with a vision of a kayak over one shoulder and a bicycle on the other. I chose leg day and jumped out of bed to prep for my ride. The weather looked good; sunny with highs in the low 80’s and light winds. I am not a fan of riding any streets with distracted drivers these days, so I choose the Northern Central Railroad Trail for my outdoor gym. The trail, originally built in 1832, ceased operation in 1972 and was resurrected as a rail-trail in 1984. I was riding solo that day so other than sucking up some fresh air and sunshine while getting a bit of exercise, I had no real goals in mind. This wasn’t my first ride on the trail, but it had been a few years since my tires had crunched over this stone dust lane to relaxation. Wrestling my bike from the bed of the truck, I caught sight of the bright blue cloudless sky and lush green trees. I smiled with anticipation for the escape ahead of me. I was starting at the two-mile mark of the trail which stretched another 18 miles north to the Pennsylvania line and then for additional 20 miles ending in York, Pennsylvania. Heading north I toyed with the idea of pedaling the entire 80-mile round trip one day.

The first few miles ticked by in a flash. Reuniting myself with the old scenic rail bed made me totally unaware of any physical exertion. One of my favorite things about this trail was how it ran parallel to different branches and creeks off the Gunpowder River. My senses enjoyed a true feast with the sight of the calm pools and gurgling rapids of the river and the earthy smells of the mature sunlit forest. Biking through the woods with a creek by your side is hard to beat. My next journey would be on the river in a kayak with the woods at my sides.  Scanning ahead I spotted a nice spot for a break in a grassy area under some trees. Leaning my bike against an ancient oak tree I considered napping in the lush, green grass. Sitting on the ground with my back against the tree I took in my surroundings. If I were a painter, I would have set up an easel right here. The vivid greens of the leaves on the trees and bushes mixed with the browns and blacks of tree trunks that highlighted here and there with a spotlight of the sun’s rays were magical. Throw in a symphony of birds and breezes and nature was putting on quite a show.  Looking around I suddenly realized that I never been this far north on the trail. Walking around to give my butt a break I found a trail marker that showed me I was still in Maryland, but I had ridden 12 miles already! My previous longest ride was a 16-mile round trip. Today was a guaranteed 24 miles unless I wimped out and called a friend. No way man. Too nice of a day. Realizing the pain that lie ahead I took an extended break and walked around a bit. Another great thing about this trail was the many historical references and sites one could find along the way. Coincidentally, I had decided to take a break near an old stone bridge built in the 1800s. The local residents had posted a sign about celebrating its birthday soon.

Back in the saddle and heading south, I contemplated the healing powers of nature. Not once had I thought about a bill, my job, or politics. My mind and body were at peace. A simple yet elusive pleasure these days. Thanks to my inability to find an adequate seat and padded bike short combination, the 12-mile return trip took twice as long. A small price to pay for the extra time outside. My trip back was also quite eventful as I narrowly missed colliding with an equally startled deer, and I enjoyed a good 20-minute break watching an older gentleman fly-fishing in the river. Not sure who’s smile was bigger as he netted a keeper from the end of a taut line. I shared the trail with many people that day, but it never felt crowded. Everyone seemed to be as grateful as I was to be there. The walkers, runners, bikers, and rowdies carrying inner tubes and coolers all passed with a smile and a cheerful hello.

At the parking lot, I eased my sore behind into the drivers’ seat. The fact that I nearly doubled my previous longest ride paled in comparison to the sights and sounds I had experienced. Although I did pause to take a few pictures, this entire trip, along with many others, would be burned on my brain to revisit anytime, anywhere for a long time to come.

About the author

Boyd Lawton

Lifelong resident of the beautiful state of Maryland. Enthusiastic participant of everything outdoors and a passionate writer who strives to get everyone up and outside! From the mountain peaks to the sandy beaches and everywhere in between I’ll be there to experience that feeling and write about it. C’mon out!

Member of American Writers & Artists, Inc. (AWAI)

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